By Jacob K. Lupai
March 22, 2010 — With the advent of peace in Southern Sudan as a result of a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) signed in 2005, foreign investors have been attracted to take advantage of the CPA to do business. Among those investors who are taking advantage of the CPA is the Kenyan Commercial Bank (KCB) which has a picturesque branch at Buluk in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan.
On its part Southern Sudan also encourages and welcomes investors to make a difference to the economy. Through investment jobs are created for the locals and wider opportunities are open. This all may sound rosy. However, investors at large are not philanthropists. Investors mostly aim to make a wider profit margin. It is to maximize profit even though that may inconvenience customers to some extent. The KCB is no exception as an investor with an eye on maximizing profit.
It its state of the art Buluk branch, the KCB has in all that one can say a magnificent building. In it there are 12 teller cubicles in which one is for Western Union’s customers who are either sending or receiving money. There also seems to be one teller cubicle for foreign exchange. The rest appear to be for customers who are depositing and withdrawing money. On that particular day when this author visited the KCB Buluk branch there were only four opened teller cubicles, the one for Western Union customers and three for the other customers. The rest eight teller cubicles were all closed. At least there were no tellers inside to show the cubicles were opened. The queues in the opened teller cubicles were moving at a snail’s pace to the frustration of customers.
There was no sign that the KCB was going to open the closed teller cubicles for the convenience of customers. Some customers visibly appeared frustrated. One customer tried to switch to another queue only to be the more frustrated because the queue seemed to have ground to a halt. To make matters worse the tellers were visiting each other and chatting probably to consult with each other but with less regard to customer’s prolonged waiting. Also typing a word or a number in the computer became like a learning exercise. This, however, does not just that the tellers were computer illiterate. Service was simply slow.
The question one may ask is, why have the state of the art of 12 teller cubicles but only operate 4 to the inconvenience of customers? The motive could have been to maximize profit margin by cutting down on the cost of making all the 12 tellers operational at once. If that was the case then the majestic display of the state of the art 12 teller cubicles was nothing but for customers to think that services at KCB were efficient and of high standard. Another reason could have been to have the building crowded with customers to show that the KCB was a people’s bank for potential customers to take note. However, with time it is hoped the KCB will improve its services to customers.
It should be understood that an attractive investment climate in Southern Sudan should not be a license to cause unnecessary inconvenience to customers who deserve something better. It is not strange to wait for the 30 minutes mark to be served. Customers’ convenience should be a top priority because it is the customers who are sustaining a bank’s operations. Making customers to stand in a queue for more than half an hour while most of the teller cubicles are closed makes it difficult to understand how a bank prides itself as a pioneer in Southern Sudan. There is need to open closed cubicles when customers are taking long in a queue. It could be that supervision was poor to detect customers’ frustration in a very slow queue due to congestion.
It is hoped that the KCB is also a listening bank that appreciates customers’ concerns. It is understandable that banks must make money but not at too much expense of customers. In Juba there are other banks with fewer teller cubicles but are by far much more efficient. The state of the art should not be used simply to entice customers who are then rewarded with poor service.
The author can be reached at [email protected]